Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Olofson's Out!

Olofson Out - Gun Owners Of America

You remember David Olofson, don't you?

Short version: He's the U.S. Army Vet who loaned his AR15 to a friend, who took it to a shooting range where it malfunctioned by firing several rounds 'very quickly'. Someone heard this, thought it sounded like a "machine gun", and since full-automatic weapons were not permitted at this range they called the police. Police went to the "friend's" home and confiscated the weapon. Six days later they arrested Olofson at his home and he was eventually convicted in Federal Court of "... knowingly transferring an unregistered machine gun".

BACKGROUND IN DEPTH: Gunowers.com has a decent summary, and links to MANY supporting documents to the Olofson Case.

Olofson has completed his 30 month sentence in prison and has been released. Now he's trying to make some money to pay his expenses and get back to his life. GOA's press release asks for people to check an online website to see if they want to buy anything that Olofson is trying to sell.

There has been a lot of commentary on the Olofson case over the past 3+ years, much of it generated by Snowflakes In Hell blog.

Four points:

(1) At first blush, this is seems to be a situation where bad judgment and bad mechanics combined to put a man in prison and ruin his life; a man who has honorably served his country and not only has NOT committed a violent crime (such as robbery with assault, which would probably get him about the same sentence) but arguably has done NOTHING wrong, or even illegal. It's just a Bad Thing all around, and the least we can do is shake our heads sadly and say "There but for the grace of God ....". Because, conceivably, any of us could be ensnared in the Nest of Vipers that is our legal system today.

(2) One of the most egregious enforcers of that legal system is the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ["ATF"]. This agency is part of the Treasury Department, and was essentially established to enforce laws which were created to regulate "noxious substances" by forbidding their use without paying applicable taxes .... and then refusing to accept the taxes (if payment had been offered) because they just didn't want you to HAVE the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms or Explosives. Yes, this is a gross oversimplification.

The point, though, may be that the Federal government has chosen taxation as a means of justifying regulation. The agency committed some very strong offensive moves against people who tried to sell alcohol during Prohibition, and now they are committing some very strong offensive moves against people who try to sell (or in the Olofson case, merely "lend") firearms. Is ATF a governmental over-reaction? Is it an "Out Of Control" governmental agency? Is it really necessary that the Federal government should be empowered to define what inanimate objects we may possess, and is this constitutional? Or, in this more "civilized" era, do we need the federal government to protect us from our own excesses?

(As a side note, GOA just documented disturbing news about ATF efforts to ban the importation of several brands, makes and/or models of SHOTGUNS because they include features which make them look 'military'; and “military shotguns, or shotguns with common military features ... are unsuitable for traditional shotgun sports.” Who defined "traditional shotgun sports", and what does that have to do with the Second Amendment?

(3) Was this a simple case of "Presecutorial Zeal"? The Supreme Court definition of a machine gun includes the phrase " ... a firearm that shoots automatically more than one shot by a single function of the trigger until the trigger is released, or the ammunition in the magazine is exhausted". The judge's instructions to the jury had been to accept the Persecutor's Prosecutor's definition: " ....shoots more than one shot with one pull of the trigger". Those of us who fire semi-automatic weapons extensively have usually witnessed one or more incidents where a semi-automatic firearm "doubles" or even "triples". This is universally (except for the AFT, the Prosecutor and the Judge) acknowledged to be a malfunction. In a 1911 model pistol, that can be caused to occur by improper installation of the "3-finger" spring, or "sear spring". Correcting that mechanical error will stop the malfunction. Conversely, if the weapon had been modified to shoot in full-automatic mode, the AR15 would have continued to fire. However, in this case it was clear ... both from the testimony of the ''friend" and that of the ATF technical witness that the AR15 would jam (stop firing) after only a few rounds had been fired. There was NO evidence that the ATF laboratory was able to cause the AR15 to fire an entire magazine of ammunition without jamming.

S0 ... was it a 'full-automatic" weapon, or was it a malfunction?

And WHY was the prosecutor so determined to get a conviction that he deliberately changed the definition of a full-automatic weapon to suit the facts of the case?

(4) As for poor Mr. Olofson, it may very well be that his life purpose has been only to serve as a Bad Example to the rest of us, "pour encourager des autres".

Here's a Lou Dobbs TV commentary on the Olofson case, after Olofson had been imprisoned. The video is dated January 22, 2009. I think that the commentary does a very good job of making point (3):

The Bottom Line:

I'm glad he's out of prison --- finally. It probably comes as no surprise to the reader that I think Olofson should never have been put through this ordeal in the first place.

In the spirit of "Full Disclosure", I've had a firearm malfunction and fire multiple shots with one pull of the trigger, also.

It was at the 2001 Area 1 USPSA match in Washington. I had given my STI Edge 2011 pistol to a gunsmith-wise friend a week before the match, asking him to do a thorough cleaning and function-check of the pistol, in preparation to this Major Match.

Unfortunately, I neglected to provide him with magazines and ammunition so he could function-test the pistol. And when I received it back, 10 minutes before the beginning of the first day of the match, there was insufficient time for me to check the pistol.

When I started the first stage, I engaged the first target and the gun Doubled. The Range Officer stopped me, because I obviously had an "Unsafe Gun" (according to the USPSA Rules of Competition.)

I looked up my friend, who was also competing at the match. We retired to a Safety Area where he disassembled the gun and discovered that the Three-Finger (Sear) spring had been incorrectly installed. The Sear 'finger' had been installed over, rather than under, the sear. (Or the reverse, I can't recall just now.)

Having no tools with us other than a small screwdriver, he used a rock as a hammer and the screwdriver as a punch to drive out the mainspring retaining pin, and when the grip assembly was removed he could tell that he had installed the spring incorrectly. He re-installed it, checked it, and re-assembled the pistol. I paid a dollar to test-fire the gun at the Function Test stage (monitored by a Range Officer), and it functioned correctly.

Cost to me? One dollar. Penalties? None ... I actually was allowed to reshoot the stage, due to a technical glitch in the Stage Range Officer handling the problem.

However, if the ATF had been present, chances are that I too would have been accused, charged and convicted (under the rules of the Olofson case) with having "...an unregistered machine gun".

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